Traditionally, Sabbath School has been the organization that reached out into the community, made friends for Jesus, and connected these friends to the church. In fact, in years past, Sabbath Schools became so active in the community that the position of personal ministries director (also known as home missionary leader, lay activities leader) was added to the church officer list. The personal ministries director was to assist in coordinating outreach projects of Sabbath School members along with other projects, and to ensure proper follow-up of new members.
The Sabbath School and Personal Ministries departments worked hand in hand. In fact, in many cases the attendance at Sabbath School was greater than at the worship service! Outreach through the Sabbath School and general church programs made for a strong soul-winning program that involved the entire church family.
Ellen White, reflecting upon the purpose and function of the Sabbath School, shares this insight.
“The Sabbath school should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ” ( Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 10).
In Counsels on Sabbath School Work we discover that the Sabbath School should be a hub of activity for the local church. Through the Sabbath School, members should find the following:
- Training or preparation for service.
- Established service within the local church and community.
- Encouragement for and activity in Bible study.
- A world mission emphasis.
- Friendships and support of one another for the issues faced in daily life.
These Personal Ministries objectives parallel the work of the Sabbath School department of the local church:
- Training and preparation for service.
- Coordination of service or outreach to the local community.
- Guidance for the overall outreach of the local congregation.
What are some suggestions for developing a Sabbath School-Personal Ministries team ministry?
- Have planning sessions together.
- Make Sabbath School classes the application centers for the principles previously mentioned. The classes can provide Bible study, prayer ministry for members, fellowship events outside of class, and community outreach or service projects. The class could even meet periodically during the week as a small group, a prayer meeting for the members, and a Bible study outreach to nonmembers.
- Include a sharing time in the program in which class members talk about their activities and have a prayer session for the church family.
- Develop projects to involve Sabbath School members, e.g., every week, provide class members with Discover Bible School enrollment cards to hand out; form groups each week to visit nonattending and former members; develop a prayer ministry; formulate groups to process Discover Bible School lessons; assist in community events -- hand out free water at running or walking events or at concerts in the park; give free car washes; feed the homeless. What can you add to this list?
In Acts 4:31 we read these words: “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (NKJV).
God is calling church members to prepare a people for the second coming of Jesus. Let Sabbath School and personal ministries volunteers join hands and boldly share the story of Jesus as freely and as widely as He makes them able to.
© 2005 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists